The Matrix (1999) Directors: The Wachowskis
“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
I am a sucker for a good mind-bending science fiction film, and The Matrix delivers a spectacular, thought-provoking, modern superhero adventure. It takes place in a futuristic dystopia. Keanu Reeves plays an underground computer programmer named Thomas Anderson known by his online hacker moniker “Neo.” as a result of his illicit hacking activities, he is pursued by a cohort of bureaucrats led by “Agent Smith” (played by Hugo Weaving) while an underground, enlightened, rebellious group of hackers led by Morpheus (played by Laurence Fishburne) tries to help Neo escape capture. After some persuasion, Morpheus shows Neo that the real world is a dark, Orwellian fraud run by machines where most humans are indoctrinated to live within “the Matrix” -a virtual, illegitimate reality. After taking the “red pill” from Morpheus, Neo awakens in the real world (cue allusions to Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy). He becomes a crew member aboard Morpheus’s underground ship called the Nebuchadnezzar (an allusion to the infamous Babylonian king as found in the Bible). Morpheus and his followers believe Neo is “the one” who can wield great power over the matrix and bring an end to the war between humans and machines. They teach Neo how to bend the reality of the matrix by virtually re-entering the simulated world of the machines. However, re-entering the matrix has its costs. The rebels are constantly being hunted by Agents. Eventually, they are betrayed by Cypher, a member of the crew, and Morpheus is captured and tortured until Neo and Trinity re-enter the matrix to save him, and at the end Neo is suddenly capable of demonstrating great “supernatural” powers. He battles and defeats one of the agents -leading Morpheus and his crew to continue their belief that Neo is the one.
As far as criticism goes the plot of The Matrix is a somewhat tired and recycled narrative involving a superhero, who is not totally aware of his own heroism, as he grows more confident throughout the movie until he is nearly beaten to death by his nemesis, and then, somehow, he musters the inner strength to overcome all obstacles. It is predictable but nevertheless it is a fun and intellectual film. It was an extraordinary cultural phenomenon when released at the birth of the internet age. Computer hackers, donning trench coats, listening to metal, and watching old kung-fu movies became a cultural stereotype. The Matrix highlights a terrific series of special effects, anime, science fiction, and Hollywood’s reimagining of kung-fu movies. The Matrix is a beautifully shot film -the fight scenes are amazing and the story continues to grip me, even if it has become a cliche that hundreds of Philosophy 101 students each year draft papers comparing Descartes and Plato to The Matrix. Interestingly enough there were numerous injuries among the actors during training for the choreographed kung-fu scenes, including a serious spinal fracture incurred by Keanu Reeves that limited his mobility for months.
The Wachowskis were formerly known as the Wachowski Brothers (Andrew or “Andy” and Laurence or “Larry”). In the early 2000s, Laurence completed a gender transition and became known as Lana, and in 2016 Andy did the same and began being known as Lilly. The Matrix is actually their second directorial film after a movie called Bound in 1996. The Wachowskis are also known for V For Vendetta in 2005. The Matrix spawned a string of sequels including an animated film called The Animatrix in 2003 along with The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions also in 2003. There is also a fourth installment planned to be released in 2021 called The Matrix Resurrections.